A few years ago, while traveling from St. Louis to Wisconsin, I stopped by some friends in Bloomington, Illinois. They had invited some other mutual friends, and over wine a seemingly casual conversation started.
“I want to write a book,” my friend Anjuli said. “About my battle with leukemia and how God worked miracles in my life.”
I had to agree: she had a compelling story. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, her prognosis was poor. Almost to the “go home and write your will” stage.
But she found treatment at the University of Chicago, and underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant. The results were positive, and after several months in Chicago, she returned home to rebuild her life as a cancer survivor.
Over the next few years, she suffered one relapse after another. Through the grace of God and the intervention of the doctors, Anjuli battled back. Two years into her cancer journey, we began working on her memoir.
Her story is much more than her battle with cancer. Born in India in a time when most women weren’t educated, Anjuli bucked tradition and managed stay in school, and even graduate from medical school. She knew her best chance of happiness lay in a western culture that gave opportunities to women, so she found a way to come to America. Here she married and had three sons. She and her husband built a successful allergy practice.
An unexpected turn in her journey came when she became a Christian, to the surprise of her Hindu family. But it was that faith and the power of Jesus that helped her through the worst of her cancer.
Plucked from a Mango Tree was published in February of 2015. It is Anjuli’s hope that many will be inspired by her story. Those struggling with cancer can gain hope that new treatments are being developed every day. Those with family or friends battling the disease can gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of someone fighting to overcome.
And all can benefit from some of the lessons Anjuli learned. One was once she made it through the treatment, the journey was not over. She had to learn how to be a cancer survivor, how to make a new life for herself, given her new limitations. Another was how God never abandoned her, no matter how miserable she felt.
Writing the book was one way Anjuli wanted to make her cancer count for something, a way she could help others. She’s also helping in another way. She recently made a donation of $3.5 million to the University of Chicago to fund a chair for cancer research.
Even as she is battling her fifth relapse and facing another experimental procedure, she wants her cancer to count for something. Whether she can inspire others with her story, know she’s funding research, or simply allowing her own treatment results be added to the knowledge of how to defeat cancer, she plans on serving others to the end.
She didn’t plan for her journey to go this way, but she’s content in knowing that God does, and that He will keep her safe. As I watch in awe of how she lives out her faith and makes what time she has left count, I wonder where my own journey is leading, and if I am making my own time count.